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X-bit Labs came across a report that Intel's upcoming Haswell processor will be the last of the chip giant's desktop processors to use LGA packaging. Starting from Broadwell, which is expected to arrive in 2014, Intel will adopt a BGA form factor, similar to Atom processors. The advantage is a smaller footprint, but the downside is that the chips have to be soldered to the motherboard, meaning that the processor will no longer be installable by the end-user, and that upgrading will no longer be possible without buying a new motherboard. Due to the market trends towards low-power microprocessors, Intel will offer various Broadwell multi-chip modules – which will contain Broadwell CPUs with integrated memory controller, graphics core, etc. and Wildcat Point input/output controllers – with various thermal design power envelopes, e.g., 10W, 15W and 47W/57W, according to the report. The BGA MCMs should provide advantages to makers of high-performance tablets, ultra-thin notebooks as well as all-in-one desktops as ball grid array packaging ensure small footprint. However, when it comes to fully-fledged desktops, BGA means that system makers will have to keep a large amount of different mainboards with various features and dissimilar microprocessors in order to provide the right choices for their clients. Such stockpiling increases business risks to smaller makers and decreases abilities to differentiate for mainboard makers.The article mentions high-end desktop (HEDT) platforms will still be supplied in LGA packaging, but these chips are substantially more expensive than Intel's current mainstream offerings. The cheapest LGA2011 chip starts at $294, whereas the most expensive mainstream-performance LGA1155 CPU costs $332.
There's speculation that Intel is moving to BGA multi-chip modules for the general PC shopper to address a market trend towards low-powered CPUs and ultra-thin form factors, but will likely still produce LGA-based CPUs for the DIY system builders looking for maximum power and performance (high-end gaming rigs, etc).So far Intel hasn't confirmed nor denied the report, and in its silence CPU competitor AMD has decided to come forward to reveal its own plans for socketed CPUs. In a two-paragraph statement to TechReport, AMD's Chris Hook clarified that the company has no plans (at this time) to move to BGA-only packaging, and will continue on with its offerings of socketed CPUs and APUs in 2013 and 2014 with the "Kaveri" APU and FX CPU lines."As the company that introduced new types of BGA packages in ultrathin platforms several years ago, and today offers BGA-packaged processors for everything from ultrathin notebooks to all-in-one desktops, to embedded applications and tablets, we certainly understand Intel's enthusiasm for the approach," Hook stated. "But for the desktop market, and the enthusiasts with whom AMD has built its brand, we understand what matters to them and how we can continue to bring better value and a better experience."But as TechReport points out, it's hard to predict what AMD's portfolio might look like in two years given its recent struggles. Will AMD even offer socketed CPUs for enthusiasts in 2014? Just last month AMD reportedly hired J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. to explore options for generating additional revenue. The company has been laying off engineers left and right, cutting costs, and is looking for new markets to generate money as the levels of cash reserves continue to fall.Reuters reports that the company is even selling its Austin campus and then leasing it back just to free up some cash. "There are favorable economic conditions in the part of Austin where the campus is located," company spokesman Drew Prairie told Reuters. "Contingent on finding an investor who wants to do a multiyear lease-back, it's a good opportunity for us to unlock the value of the real estate to fund operations."This won't be the first time AMD has sold off its assets. Prairie said that AMD has already sold its headquarters in Sunnyvale, California, and a building near Toronto, and is currently leasing them back to generate extra cash.It will be interesting to see the CPU market in two years. Will socketed CPUs be a thing of the past? As Nvidia once told use back in April 2011, there will always be a market for the high-end, enthusiast PC, so don't expect to see LGA-based CPUs to end up in the back yard with wind-up cars and 3DFX GPUs any time soon.